Even Conservatives Are Saying That Citizens United Must Be Stopped

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It isn’t just liberals and Democrats who believe that Citizens United must be overturned. Conservatives are increasingly realizing that the Koch enabling Supreme Court decision is silencing their voices too.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush Richard Painter wrote:

Why should conservative voters care? First, big money in politics encourages big government. Campaign contributions drive spending on earmarks and other wasteful programs — bridges to nowhere, contracts for equipment the military does not need, solar energy companies that go bankrupt on the government’s dime and for-profit educational institutions that don’t educate. When politicians are dependent on campaign money from contractors and lobbyists, they’re incapable of holding spending programs to account.

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Social conservatives and faith-based voters should care about big money in politics because it drowns out their voices on issues from abortion and euthanasia to gambling and pornography. Churches and other charitable groups are prohibited from contributing to campaigns or even endorsing candidates. Politicians pay them lip service, but their influence pales in comparison to large for-profit enterprises. Values don’t pay for campaigns; health insurance companies, entertainment businesses, the gambling industry and its online counterparts do.

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More important, the system is a betrayal of the vision of participatory democracy embraced by the founders of our country. They rebelled against oligarchy and corruption in England. They tossed the British tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 and demanded taxation only with representation. We should do the same.

If one looks past the specific issues that Painter mentions, there are some clear areas of consensus between the left and the right on campaign finance reform. Both sides of the ideological spectrum agree that Citizens United has made politicians accountable only to the special interests and billionaires.

The left and the right also agree that Citizens United has resulted in bad governance. The issues that matter most to the constituents of candidates are being ignored, as policymakers are focused on carrying out the agenda of those who are writing the checks. The largest source of agreement is that Citizens United is helping to create an oligarchic system that is destroying participatory democracy.

One might not agree with conservatives on specific issues, but both sides agree that our representative democracy is sick, and the current campaign finance system is at the root of the illness. If America is going to boot out the billionaires, and would be oligarchs, Citizens United has got to go.

In a time of bitter partisan disagreement, the one point that most Americans can agree on is that the People want their government back.